Just getting to this point for Kathleen O’Toole, the woman chosen by Mayor Ed Murray to lead the Seattle Police Department, was a process.
Then came the press …
Hours after being formally introduced by Murray as his pick for the next Seattle Chief of Police at a 10 a.m. press conference, the 60-year-old O’Toole sat behind an imposing solid wood table, diligently answering questions from every news outlet in town. With each interview scheduled for 10 minutes (many went longer), it made for a full afternoon’s work for the woman who seems all but certain to become Seattle’s first-ever female chief. One by one, the journalists filed in for their allotted time. O’Toole’s last session – an aide at the Mayor’s office said there were at least 13 reporters scheduled in total – came with Seattle Weekly and Real Change. The exhaustion in the room was palpable, with the westward sun beating through the windows on the seventh floor of City Hall. But the likeable and straightforward O’Toole refused to wilt.
And, really, why would she? As O’Toole indicated in her introductory remarks this morning, even making it this far in the process has been an exercise in endurance. “They really put us through our paces,” she said of the police chief search committee’s work to identify finalists for the job. Murray himself called the process “fairly rigorous,” explaining that he believes Seattle has executed its most thorough police chief search since Patrick Fitzsimons was selected by Charlie Royer to run SPD back in 1979.
“It was a tough process. But I liked it, to be honest with you. I’d rather go through the ringers than to have someone say it was a slam dunk or it was fixed from the beginning,” O’Toole said of the rigmarole that led to her selection, which she described as including multiple trips to Seattle, multiple interviews with the police chief selection committee (and sub-committees of said committee), along with one-on-one interviews with the mayor, a requested written response follow-up, and even a dinner outing with Murray. “It was much more comprehensive,” O’Toole said when asked to compare it to other police chief searches she’s been involved with.
“By the way, it was on the level too,” O’Toole said of Seattle’s selection process. “I called [Bernard Melekian], who is now advising the mayor on policing issue - he’s someone I have huge respect for. I said to him, ‘Is this on the level, is this a level playing field?’ And he said absolutely.
“I knew I could trust him, so I threw my hat in the ring.”
Speaking of hats, O’Toole indicated she has some shopping to do in the near future. Describing her family as “avid sports fans,” Murray’s pick for police chief foresees a trip to “the local sports store” to acquire “all the Seattle particular attire” coming soon – especially with the Red Sox scheduled to hit Safeco next month. To this point, O’Toole noted that when she became Boston’s police commissioner the Curse of the Bambino was still going strong. It ended during her first year on the job.
“I know we need to do a little work on the baseball team,” O’Toole told Seattle Weekly. “Hopefully I can bring some luck.”
Turning the Mariners around might be too much to ask of O’Toole, however. Getting SPD on the right path, in the eyes of the community it serves, seems like more than enough.